The Best Joke

The dog wears a chest harness when we’re out walking, but a choke collar otherwise. I forget why we switched to this configuration, but it works for us.

Anyway, this morning when I went to put the collar on him, he put his head up and then at the last minute, tucked his chin. Then he put his head back up, wide grin, tail wagging and when I moved in again, chin tuck.

“Are you teasing me?” I asked. He slipped his face through the collar.

Sometimes, you laugh with someone and you feel a familiar closeness. But when I laugh with the dog, I experience a kind of intimacy that comes across so much distance. We have so few ways of really understanding each other. We map our own experiences onto the other. I anthropomorphize him. I’m sure he canidopomorphizes me.

But sometimes the maps align. We aren’t compassionately almost understanding each other by ascribing the motivations we understand to each other.

We are sharing a thing. A joke.

It feels like a miracle. This utterly foreign being and I are sharing a joke.

How are we so lucky as to have dogs?

5 thoughts on “The Best Joke

  1. That is hilarious.

    It’s interesting how smart this dog is. He’s had to overcome so much, and do the much-harder learning on so many things that comes from learning as an adult what should have been learned as a puppy. Humor is subtle and sophisticated brainwork when it comes to figuring out just the right thing in just the right moment to make both oneself and the other have that moment of union in the shared joke, and yet he managed to do it across species lines.

  2. Getting him on thyroid medication definitely improved his cognitive abilities immensely. But I also think he may do a lot more considering than I realize. Like, when he taught himself to roll down the hill, he clearly at some point, had a desire and made a plan. And like, last night, when I opened the door to come home from work, he shot out of it past me like an unstoppable rocket, which made me think that he must have known, if he wanted to lick the neighbor’s stump (no, I don’t know why), he had a slim window of opportunity to get past me while my hands were full and I was expecting him to do his usual greeting of me. So, he had a plan.

    I used to get frustrated with him, because I was used to Sadie, who was so smart in a “I will instantly look at the situation and know what I must do to achieve my goal.” way. But I don’t know if Sadie would have ever planned. I mean, say Sadie wanted to get out of a fenced-in yard. She would have just decided she should climb over the fence or jump over it and she would have done those things until either they worked or she was convinced they wouldn’t work. That would have been her mission and her activity until she achieved her goal.

    Whereas, I think Sonnyboy here, if he wanted to get out of a fenced-in yard, would spend many afternoons laying in a sunny spot in the yard appearing to be sleeping, when really he was working through what he wanted to do, how he would do it, and whether it would work. He might work on some yard-leaving skills, but it wouldn’t necessarily be obvious that was what he was doing. And when the time was right to leave the yard, he’d be gone.

  3. There are studies out there on dog laughter, a “light breathy pant”, that once you know what it is you’ll recognize it! Like, when a dog is goofing around and panting when there’s no real reason to be panting, he’s laughing.

    My sister used this knowledge to tell her dog “dawg jokes”. Like, she’d hide a sock behind her back, then whip it out and yell “SOCK!” and her dog would laugh! No human would think this was funny, but to a dog it’s hilarious!

    I love that Sonnyboy is writing “Hooman jokes”. No other dog would get the punchline, but he knows that you will. :-)

  4. Another big hit was to make your hands like spiders and pounce up and down the dogs spine while saying “TICKLY TICKLY TICKLY TICKLY!!!!” Dog hilarity! :-)

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